Monday, October 31, 2011

October Wrap-Up

What a boring month here! All review posts, and one lonely top 5 list. Once my exams are over (aren't you reading that promise everywhere lately?) I'll work to make everything much more interesting.

But anyway, here's this month's wrap-up:


2011 Debut Author Challenge:
This month for the Debut Author Challenge, I read and reviewed Virtuosity by Jessica Martinez. It was released on the 18th, and my review is linked below.

100+ Challenge: completed.
This month I read and reviewed 16 novels that go towards the challenge's goal of reading 100 books this year, bringing my running total up to 157. You can see my completed list of the 100 books I read for this challenge here.

Aussie YA Reading Challenge: completed.
This month I read and reviewed 3 novels that goes towards the challenge's goal of reading 12 YA books by Australian authors (I'm on 32 at the moment. My new personal goal is 35). Their reviews are linked below, marked by asterisks.


     - Top 5 List: proofs that good covers don't equate to good books

You can find a list of all the books (alphabetized) that I've ever reviewed on this blog here.

Book Of The Month:

A feature inspired by Audrey at holes In My brain, at the end of each month I'll pick the favorite book I read, and feature it as my Book Of The (next) Month.

November's Book Of The Month is Daughter Of Smoke And Bone by Laini Taylor. My review can be found here.

Stay tuned for a Daughter Of Smoke And Bone giveaway tomorrow! (Tomorrow conveniently happens to be one minute away!) The winner of last month's giveaway of Imaginary Girls was Rosetta.

So that was October in review. How was your month?

Review: The Undercurrent by Tricia Rayburn


 Undercurrent by Tricia Rayburn

Series: Siren (#2)
Pages: 352
Publisher: Penguin Australia
Published: June 21st, 2011
IBSN: 9781606840757

Nothing has been normal since Vanessa Sands learned that her sister was murdered by sirens—femme fatales of the watery depths—and that everything she believed about her family was a lie.

Her boyfriend Simon’s been the only person Vanessa feels she can really trust. But now there are some secrets she can’t tell even him. And when Vanessa finds herself in the sights of Parker, Hawthorne Prep’s resident charmer, she needs someone to confide in more than ever. Doubting her relationship with Simon, unsure of Parker’s intentions—and of her own—and terrified by what she’s learned about herself, Vanessa has never felt so alone.

But personal problems must be put aside, because the Winter Harbor sirens are back for revenge. Now, Vanessa must face her past and accept that she is just like her enemies—every bit as alluring, every bit as dangerous.

The ice over Winter Harbor is melting and the sirens Vanessa thought would stay under and slowly resurfacing. But their return might not be the most frightening thing right now, with secrets Vanessa would rather pretend she doesn't have driving wedges between her and everyone she cares about.

Undercurrent held onto what I loved so dearly about Siren: the eerie, alluring tone. The book itself was akin to its featured paranormal creatures, so captivating I couldn't leave it for a second.

Rayburn has genuine writing skill. The tone is effortlessly created, and the mysteriousness was enticing and justified. Vanessa's voice is clear and suitably melancholic, which helps a lot with feeling for her. She was the kind of narrator I could get behind, far from perfect but constantly seeking out a compromise between what she needed to do and what was right.

The paranormal side to the story was also woven into the contemporary setting remarkably well, with local history tied seamlessly into history of sirens. Characters privy to the sirens' existence had realistic reactions to developments (which is to say there weren't any naive and shocked characters, but rather, pragmatic thinkers).

Tricia Rayburn crafted another intriguing ending in Undercurrent, one where everything is left in a realistic balance between tension and calm, and enough drama remains that I'm anticipating the sequel. In a time where a commonly assumed attitude is that cliffhangers are necessary to hold onto reader interest, good endings like these are few and far between, and I cherish them all.

The Siren series is dark and different and definitely for any fans of upper YA looking for paranormal romance that breaks the mold.

I give Undercurrent a 4 out of 5.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

A short break from your scheduled bookish programming...

I graduated (high school) on Thursday! Though I don't really feel graduated yet. Maybe it'll sink it next time something notable happens and I think "I need to remember this to tell X!" and realise that I won't just see them again on Monday morning.

Anyway, on Thursday we had our "muck-up day" where we basically come to school in costume and have a farewell assembly and morning tea with the teachers and say goodbye to the school we'll come back to next week for exams. I a Twister board? Or as the game Twister? I had trouble describing it to people before the day, and I still have trouble describing it, so have a picture!

The costume only arrived approximately 12 hours before I needed to wear it, and it was a size too big, but I'm pretty happy with how it turned out regardless, even if I could have taken a couple of preparatory yoga classes to get my left foot to green.

So many other costumes were really great as well. Have another few pictures where I make an unflattering mid-sentence face alongside them. 

Later that night we had our graduation ceremony, which was pretty fun if a little poorly organised and badly photographed (I was on a table with a photographer, but my mother saw fit to commandeer the camera and didn't seem to understand that a) flash is a function that cameras have, and b) it's necessary at night).

See? Dark photo. Though I wouldn't completely blame the camerawork for the bags under my eyes.

Anyway, the morning after, the graduating class met curiously at the nearest McDonalds (because of some rule about only allowing uniformed students onto the school campus)(but really, would the park a block from the school not have been a reasonable meet-up place?). Our break-up excursion was to the beach at Torquay, though the weather didn't look like it was going to be optimal for swimming.

But then it was, and I didn't have bathers, but ended up swimming in my clothes and leaving a Skye-sized wet patch on the bus seat home.

All in all, fun times were had, and I can't wait to sit exams and be actually done.

I'm going to end with a question for all my fellow unphotogenic bloggers. How do you deal with sentimental events?

Saturday, October 29, 2011

In My Mailbox (7)

In My Mailbox features are slowly getting more and more frequent, but aren't yet weekly here like they are where they're hosted at The Story Siren. Essentially In My Mailbox is for featuring the books you've received through whatever means over the past week.

In my last In My Mailbox post (was it two weeks ago?), I noted that I'd had a great week for winning books. It seems now that it's been a good month for giveaway wins, with 7 of these books below arriving as prizes. It really topped off a fabulous week, coming home from my last day of high school classes ever, from muck-up day, from the year 12 break-up excursion, all to find books at the front door for me.

  • Break by Hannah Moskowitz
    I've wanted this book for what feels like forever, but is actually since I read Hannah's second book, Invincible Summer, and loved it.
  • When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
    I read When You Reach Me a while back, and absolutely adored it. I'm ecstatic to have won a copy.
  • Days Like This by Alison Stewart
    This one came from a Goodreads giveaway, which probably made it the most exciting one here. Who actually enters those with a bajillion entrants expecting to win?
  • Beautiful Chaos by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl
    Thanks to Penguin for this one! Hopefully I can make time for it in the near future.
  • Last Breath by Rachel Caine
    I'm reading this one at the moment, and loving it every bit as much as I loved the others in this series. Thanks to Penguin for this one as well, though I have no idea what I'll do with my pre-ordered copy when it arrives...
  • Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers
    I love having a copy of Some Girls Are now to sit snugly between Cracked Up To Be and Fall For Anything. I love their colours, and I really can't wait for the lovely blue This Is Not A Test to complete the rainbow of her book spines.
  • Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
    This is going to be a fabulously creepy read! I've read quite a few books with illustrations/photos lately, and I'm definitely in the mood for more.
  • Lola And The Boy Next Door and Anna And The French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
    Like everyone else, I completely adore these books. I'd scheduled to review Lola a few days ago, but I was too busy to actually get around to writing it, and then too busy to admonish myself for it.

So what did you guys get this week that was uber-exciting? Or simply, what was uber-exciting for you guys this week? Are any other Aussie year twelves who graduated this week reading this?

Review: The Unbecoming Of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin


The Unbecoming Of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

Series: Mara Dyer (#1)
Pages: 452
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Published: September 27th, 2011
IBSN: 9781442421769

Mara Dyer doesn't think life can get any stranger than waking up in a hospital with no memory of how she got there.  It can.

She believes there must be more to the accident she can't remember that killed her friends and left her mysteriously unharmed.

There is.

She doesn't believe that after everything she's been through, she can fall in love.

She's wrong.

Mara Dyer wakes up in a hospital, curiously unhurt, with no memory of what put her there. Slowly memories return to her, of freak accident in an abandoned building that killed her friends, but not her. Eventually she begins to wonder, what role did I play in it?

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer opens with a prologue set after the plot of the book, basically in which Mara tells us that her story is a confession and a warning. "This is what I remember", she begins with. But the majority of what she remembers isn't important to the mysterious paranormal plot, but her relationship with Noah. I was hanging out for the point where he becomes important, but the hundreds of pages about him felt like a waste by the end.

Much about the writing got on my nerves, particularly the dialogue. The characters spoke with language unnaturally sophisticated for teenagers, and narrated in regular style. It would have been smoother if the 'big words' were saved for narration rather than speech. Also, I was getting the impression constantly that Mara was saying contrived things specifically to segue to some apparently clever remark from Noah. It was as though Noah had things Hodkin wanted him to say, and Mara's purpose in the conversation was the work around that.

On Mara and Noah, their romance, apart from being mostly inconsequential, was irritating. Mara turned to mush whenever he was around and let herself be walked all over. All of her interactions with him were "despite herself", and her whole fascination with him was founded on his good looks.

The whole mysterious paranormal aspect was predictable after not too far in, and the eerie atmosphere wasn't maintained. Only certain moments had an appropriately dark tone. It was clear where Mara was freaked out, but the writing didn't extend to us feeling freaked out as well.

The Unbecoming Of Mara Dyer was mostly disappointing, with it not living up to the hype it received for apparently great mystery and romance. But now that the scene's been set, maybe the sequel will be better, and maybe have a major plot.

I give The Unbecoming Of Mara Dyer a 2 out of 5.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Waiting On Wednesday (48)

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly meme, hosted by Jill at Breaking The Spine, in which we highlight an upcoming book release we're eagerly awaiting.

This week I'm waiting on The Fault In Our Stars by John Green. Well, not just this week, but ever since it was announced. But this week its distinct and fabulously simple cover was unveiled, and my pre-ordered copy seems so far away...

Diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer at 12, Hazel was prepared to die until, at 14, a medical miracle shrunk the tumours in her lungs... for now.

Two years post-miracle, sixteen-year-old Hazel is post-everything else, too post-high school, post-friends and post-normalcy. And even though she could live for a long time (whatever that means), Hazel lives tethered to an oxygen tank, the tumours tenuously kept at bay with a constant chemical assault.

Enter Augustus Waters. A match made at cancer kid support group, Augustus is gorgeous, in remission, and shockingly to her, interested in Hazel. Being with Augustus is both an unexpected destination and a long-needed journey, pushing Hazel to re-examine how sickness and health, life and death, will define her and the legacy that everyone leaves behind.

[Synopsis by Goodreads]

The Fault In Our Stars is being released by Dutton on the 10th of January, 2012.

Feel free to leave a link to your own Waiting On Wednesday post in the comments, and I'll be sure to have a look.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Review: The Iron Knight by Julie Kagawa


The Iron Knight by Julie Kagawa

Series: Iron Fey (#4)
Pages: 386
Publisher: Harlequin
Published: October 25th, 2011
IBSN: 9780373210367

My name—my True Name—is Ashallayn'darkmyr Tallyn. 

I am the last remaining son of Mab, Queen of the Unseelie Court. And I am dead to her.

My fall began, as many stories do, with a girl…

Meghan's ordeal was long. Fighting to find her kidnapped brother stolen away to the realm of fey turned into a fight to save the second world she was tied to by blood. At the end she took her throne as the Iron Queen, ruling over a place lethal to her Ash. Determined to see her again, he's seeking out mortality. His journey, of course, won't be easy either, but he'll find that the most trying obstacles aren't the physical ones.

The Iron Knight is the unexpected fourth book in the Iron Fey series, one I first saw as tacked awkwardly onto the end of an established and successful franchise. Though this first impression was diminished as I continued and it became clear that Ash's story is a necessary addition to the saga and I wasn't giving Miss Kagawa nearly enough credit.

The writing style was fluid and descriptive enough to create a vivid image of the ethereal world. Her characters were created with distinct personalities, though sometimes it feels like they lacked depth. Much of Puck and Ash's interactions read in the exact same way, with Ash entirely stoic and Puck steadfastly energetic. I got tired occasionally of their stereotypical personalities.

The major appeal to me in Julie Kagawa's narrative style, however, is the plot and pacing reminiscent of children's epics. There is a series of complications on the way to the solving the overall problem. If the plot were a mountain, regular stories would be of characters climbing it. Kagawa's plots are like large step pyramids, with heights and heights to scale.

The ending disappointed me slightly, though. I felt like the issue Ash found with the mortality he was seeking wasn't addressed properly. He essentially ignored the problem and hoped for it to go away -- and it did. I liked the place where we parted with the characters, but it felt like some things were overlooked in order to get them there.

The Iron Knight should appeal to fans of earlier books in the series, and to those who miss the adventure stories of their younger years.

I give The Iron Knight a 4 out of 5.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Review: Shut Out by Kody Keplinger


Shut Out
by Kody Keplinger

Pages: 273
Publisher: Poppy
Published: September 5th, 2011
IBSN: 9780316175562

Most high school sports teams have rivalries with other schools. At Hamilton High, it's a civil war: the football team versus the soccer team. And for her part,Lissa is sick of it. Her quarterback boyfriend, Randy, is always ditching her to go pick a fight with the soccer team or to prank their locker room. And on three separate occasions Randy's car has been egged while he and Lissa were inside, making out. She is done competing with a bunch of sweaty boys for her own boyfriend's attention.
Then Lissa decides to end the rivalry once and for all: She and the other players' girlfriends go on a hookup strike. The boys won't get any action from them until the football and soccer teams make peace. What they don't count on is a new sort of rivalry: an impossible girls-against-boys showdown that hinges on who will cave to their libidos first. But what Lissa never sees coming is her own sexual tension with the leader of the boys, Cash Sterling...

The girlfriends of the football players at Hamilton High are fed up with the soccer-football rivalry distracting their boyfriends, so they go on a sex strike. What starts out as a manipulative plan only declines further after Lissa's boyfriend cheats on her and the motivation behind the strike seems less and less influenced by the rivalry.

With subject matter so sketchy (I don't mean the sex. I love when books that don't shyly tiptoe around it, even if this one seemed to be shouting it repeatedly), I can say I only decided to pick up Shut Out because I figured it would be like her first book, The DUFF, in that some things annoyed the hell out of me but I still really enjoyed it. I figured mostly right. I enjoyed reading it, but didn't like it. (Is that possible?)

Much of the feminist themes come through like the author preaching. Kody Keplinger is quite vocal on her blog about gender double-standards, and it really shows in Shut Out. Plus, I couldn't take female characters trying to combat misogyny seriously when so much of their dialogue is rife with misandry. For example, Lissa and her friends complain that she's called a 'tease' for being a virgin, but they call Cash a tease right back. It isn't okay to empower women by putting down men.

I couldn't say I liked Lissa. I never fully understood her character. The sex strike was her idea, and that didn't make much sense after the twist around halfway through. Her anal-retentiveness never felt natural, but awkward. It just felt like something carelessly thrown in to take her development further.

Shut Out is fans of Kody's first book, The DUFF, provided they don't mind being preached at. It has the same fun, breezy tone, but it's a lot heavier on the feminism.

I give Shut Out a 2 out of 5.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Review: A Need So Beautiful by Suzanne Young


A Need So Beautiful
by Suzanne Young

Series: A Need So Beautiful (#1)
Pages: 267
Publisher: Balzer & Bray
Published: June 21st, 2011
IBSN: 9780062008244

Charlotte’s best friend thinks Charlotte might be psychic. Her boyfriend thinks she’s cheating on him. But Charlotte knows what’s really wrong: She is one of the Forgotten, a kind of angel on earth, who feels the Need—a powerful, uncontrollable draw to help someone, usually a stranger. 

But Charlotte never wanted this responsibility. What she wants is to help her best friend, whose life is spiraling out of control. She wants to lie in her boyfriend's arms forever. But as the Need grows stronger, it begins to take a dangerous toll on Charlotte. And who she was, is, and will become--her mark on this earth, her very existence--is in jeopardy of disappearing completely.

Charlotte will be forced to choose: Should she embrace her fate as a Forgotten, a fate that promises to rip her from the lives of those she loves forever? Or is she willing to fight against her destiny--no matter how dark the consequences?

Charlotte's been feeling the Need more and more often lately. The strong, painful compulsions to commit good deeds are ruining her relationships, and she fears they're behind the strange things happening to her body as well. Finding out what they really mean for her before everything else completely falls apart becomes key.

Usually with paranormal novels the emphasis is placed on plot, but A Need So Beautiful focuses on the emotional side to Charlotte's ordeal. This was a refreshing perspective, and totally welcomed. Too often do I find paranormal protagonists' turmoil skimmed over.

Feeling for Charlotte was so easy. Her predicament was genuinely terrible. It isn't a PNR of finding love and new powers and then being hunted by a bad guy. It's about existing solely to help others, and slowly burning out. Could you imagine being forgotten by the people you love? Ceasing to exist physically at a slower rather than ceasing to exist in the mind of others, and having to see them live with no idea of who you are? This book was terribly sad, I knew that before I even read it, but I was pleased to find it was the realistic (I used this word way too much in reviews of paranormals) nature of the depressive subject matter. It thankfully lacked the dumping-sob-stories-on-top-of-sob-stories/Nick Sparks feel.

I'm new to Young's books, and I had no idea what to expect from her prose or characterisation. I was pleasantly surprised by the smooth articulate writing 
style (though 'beautiful' was overused, even if characters tried to justify it) and how aptly she created characters and kept them true. Charlotte was likable for her strength and the relatability in her reluctance to be selfless. The romance between her relationship and Harlin was written with inherent chemistry that made the scenes between them buzz.

I was thankful for the turn-around ending, but it was pulled off in a jagged sort of way. It's possible to ease into a dramatic ending to prevent the cliffhanger feel, though it did achieve its aim, I guess. I am completely ready for the sequel. So Sequel, if you were waiting for the right time to fall unexpectedly into my hands, it's now.

A Need So Beautiful was a poignant and absolutely unique paranormal. I recommend it for fans of touching contemporaries or those beginning to feel exasperated with PNRs.

I give A Need So Beautiful a 4 out of 5.

P.S. Would you guys recommend Suzanne Young's other books? Are they as emotional as this one? Because that was the major appeal in this one.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Waiting On Wednesday (47)

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly meme, hosted by Jill at Breaking The Spine, in which we highlight an upcoming book release we're eagerly awaiting.

This week I'm waiting on The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour. I loved her first book, Hold Still, and I'd have been excited for this one anyway, but a road trip? Yeah, I need this book.

Colby and Bev have a long-standing pact: graduate, hit the road with Bev's band, and then spend the year wandering around Europe. But moments after the tour kicks off, Bev makes a shocking announcement: she's abandoning their plans - and Colby - to start college in the fall.
But the show must go on and The Disenchantments weave through the Pacific Northwest, playing in small towns and dingy venues, while roadie- Colby struggles to deal with Bev's already-growing distance and the most important question of all: what's next?

Morris Award—finalist Nina LaCour draws together the beauty and influences of music and art to brilliantly capture a group of friends on the brink of the rest of their lives.

[Synopsis by Goodreads]

The Disenchantments is being released by Dutton on the 16th of February, 2012.

Feel free to leave a link to your own Waiting On Wednesday post in the comments, and I'll be sure to have a look.

Review: Only Ever Always by Penni Russon


Only Ever Always 
by Penni Russon

Pages: 180
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Published: August 2011
IBSN: 9781741750447

Claire lives in an ordinary world where she is broken with grief. The silvery notes of her music box allow her to escape into the dream-world of Clara. In Clara’s world, powerful people are pulling the strings. She finds broken things to swap at the markets and walks treacherous routes. Claire’s and Clara’s paths are set to collide but which world is real?

Claire and Clara are one and the same, but of two very different worlds. Dire circumstances and eerie parallel music boxes will lead them to the other, but there's no balance to be found with them where they don't belong. Eventually, the question becomes, which is the dream and which is the dreamer? How much is real?

A lesser question: how little justice will I do this magical book?

Only Ever Always has the atmosphere of a fairy tale -- not the Disney kind, but of the original you find out years later to be vastly different. It was eerie and vivid and oddly hypnotic, the setting reminiscent of that of This Is Shyness. Clara's world is just a decayed parallel of Claire's, but it has this intoxicating otherworldly vibe to it that feels separate.

The prose was effortlessly descriptive and gave a vivid picture of the unique world Russon built. She has a definite talent for writing, invoking so much emotion and weaving spare phrases that resonated. Her partial second person narration was pulled off brilliantly and helped us to feel deeply involved.

It would have been difficult to not become invested in the characters of Only Ever Always. Clara and Claire had this connection before they even met, united by their oddly poignant music box and like wistful voices. The relationships they held with others defined them as well. The story opens with Clara and Andrew talking of adventures, before we knew anything about them, and as their dynamic shifted, I was always thinking back to that initial place.

Penni Russon did so much in so little pages. Reading the author's note afterwards in which she tells about what led her to write Only Ever Always gave us insight into how much the initial idea developed since conceptionBy the end I was just holding the tiny book amazed at how much I was affected by it. Russon is a master storyteller.

Reading Only Ever Always felt like an effort, in a best way. It isn't a smooth, soft read, but rather dark and difficult, and beautifully touching.

I give Only Ever Always a 6 out of 5.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Top 5 reminders that good covers don't always equate to good books

I think we're pretty much all guilty of this misconception, and we mostly know it too. All of the gorgeous covers that publishers are creating lately have us putting these upcoming releases on our wishlist first and reading the blurb second. We're set up with high expectations from the cover, and occasionally we're let down and reminded that it's the text that really matters, not the pretty pictures on the outside.

This list also comes with the disclaimer that I don't mean to offend any fans of the following books by implying that they're bad. I think they're bad, but I don't mind if you guys think otherwise.

The Unbecoming Of Mara Dyer

Looking back at the cover now, I really should have realised the way the guy's holding the girl would be indicative of the horrid romance. But underwater covers are my weakness.
Tris & Izzie

Possibly one my favourite covers of all time. Possibly one of my favourite movies of all time. Possibly one of my least favourite books of all time.


I bought this one before I even looked at the back of the book. I probably still would have bought it if I'd read the blurb then. I understand that the people who write blurbs can't put things like "Skye, put this book DOWN right NOW" on them, but I really wish they would.

The Goddess Test

I was so ready to love this book. I mean, a pretty girl in a pretty place with pretty Greek lettering. Pretty story? Wrong, anticlimactic story.


This cover's probably the oldest of all of these, and I remember how unique it was considered at the time. Now dark covers featuring pretty dresses and sad girls in contrast are pretty commonplace. But I did really love this cover at the time, and I was disappointed.

Are there any covers that set you guys up for disappointment? Or maybe visa versa, are there any amazing books you know of with horrid covers?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Review: Virtuosity by Jessica Martinez


Virtuosity by Jessica Martinez

Pages: 304
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Published: October 18th, 2011
IBSN: 9781442420526

Now is not the time for Carmen to fall in love. And Jeremy is hands-down the wrong guy for her to fall for. He is infuriating, arrogant, and the only person who can stand in the way of Carmen getting the one thing she wants most: to win the prestigious Guarneri competition. Carmen's whole life is violin, and until she met Jeremy, her whole focus was winning. But what if Jeremy isn't just hot...what if Jeremy is better? Carmen knows that kissing Jeremy can't end well, but she just can't stay away. Nobody else understands her--and riles her up--like he does. Still, she can't trust him with her biggest secret: She is so desperate to win she takes anti-anxiety drugs to perform, and what started as an easy fix has become a hungry addiction. Carmen is sick of not feeling anything on stage and even more sick of always doing what she’s told, doing what's expected.
Sometimes, being on top just means you have a long way to fall...

Carmen's entire life has revolved around her violin career. It hasn't been so bad, until recently. Performance without anti-anxiety medication seems impossible and her mother's trying to continue her own prematurely-ended career through Carmen. Her budding romance with fellow prodigy Jeremy seems to be the only good thing about her violin now, but her mother won't even allow for one distraction.

Virtuosity was an impressive debut, skilfully written. Music books usually aren't my thing, but this story wasn't exclusively about violin. It was about family and romance and seemingly insurmountable pressure. Martinez captured a teenage voice with deftness and created trials for her that led to stunning character development.

The prose was spare, but it very much captured Carmen's voice. I became invested in her story early on, and I was feeling alongside her anxious, excited, worried, whatever emotion. She was likable, with her earnest and kind personality. I also admired the way she began to stand up for herself eventually.

The romance definitely hit the spot as well. Carmen's story wasn't dominated by her burgeoning relationship with Jeremy, but it was important to her development, rather than just an obligatory subplot. Jeremy and Carmel changed and grew so much because of each other, and though their romance felt slightly rushed, there was much chemistry.

Though sometimes Carmen feeling so sorry for herself verged on annoying, it was easy to see where she was coming from. I can't say that I appreciate melodrama, but I can understand it. Carmen's lived a fairly smooth life, with a talent and a family who loves her (and some that doesn't, but that's not too big a deal) and a comfortable home. I could understand how the events of Virtuosity had her overwhelmed.

The ending was sappy and a little too dragged out, but overall, Virtuosity was a promising debut. The prose lended to three-dimensional characters, and the themes were universal.

I give Virtuosity a 4 out of 5.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

In My Mailbox (6)

In My Mailbox is a weekly feature (though only a occasional feature here) hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren. In entails the showcasing of books we've received over the past week. So, here's what the postman crammed into my tiny mailbox this week:

This week was a great one for giveaways! All but the three standing to the right were won.

  • Imaginary Girls, a signed copy from YA Book Twins.
    I've already read this one, and loved it. It's my Book Of The Month, and there's a link to my giveaway up top if you haven't already entered.
  • Anna Dressed In Blood, from Uniquely Moi Books.
    I've already read one as well, and enjoyed it a lot!
  • Forget You, from Gone With The Words.
    Another read previously, but I'm happy to own a copy now.
  • Between, Forgotten, The Lost Saint, The Dark Divine, Shift, from a Girlfriend magazine competition (I was really surprised to find such a huge package at my door!).
    I've read all of these but Between before, but the blurb has me excited to start it. I never looked twice at it before, since the cover made me think "self-published" and I've had rocky experiences with those, but it sounds good.
  • Drink Slay Love, for review from Allen & Unwin.
    I think this is coming out here in December, and even with the back of the ARCs quasi-spoiler, I'm excited to read this.
  • Silence, for review from Simon & Schuster.
    I have trouble looking at the cover without chuckling, so maybe I'll put a random jacket cover over it while I'm reading so I don't distracted.
  • Hush, Hush, bought for Becca's events here in December.
    I had a copy before but traded it. I always end up trading away books by authors who announce tours here a few weeks later. Or maybe it's the other way around, authors come here because I trade their books.

I didn't notice while taking the photo, but the beanie (point A) and pink sock (point B) I used to help hold this haphazard position are visible.
Also on the photos, I'm glad the alcove at the foot of my bed is now useful for something besides storing my unicycle, even if that use is as lame as a backdrop.

So, what did you guys get this week that has you excited?

Review: Juliet Immortal by Stacey Jay


Juliet Immortal
 by Stacey Jay

Pages: 304
Publisher: Delacorte
Published: August 9th, 2011
IBSN: 9780385740166

The most tragic love story in history . . .

Juliet Capulet didn't take her own life. She was murdered by the person she trusted most, her new husband, Romeo Montague, a sacrifice made to ensure his own immortality. But what Romeo didn't anticipate was that Juliet would be granted eternity, as well, and would become an agent for the Ambassadors of Light. For 700 years, she's fought Romeo for the souls of true lovers, struggling to preserve romantic love and the lives of the innocent. Until the day she meets someone she's forbidden to love, and Romeo, oh Romeo, will do everything in his power to destroy that love.

William Shakespeare's tragic Romeo And Juliet was a lie, but the real story is tragic also. Juliet did kill herself, but rather, Romeo did, after finding that taking the life of a soul mate grants immortality. Now, thousands of years later, they're on opposing sides. She, with the Ambassadors, fights for love, and he of the Mercenaries fights to destroy it.

Juliet Immortal surprised me. It's definitely not something I would have read on my own, considering the cover and blurb give off a Not For Skye vibe. But my friend came to school halfway through this raving about it, and even if she does have questionable taste, she doesn't often get that enthusiastic about books, so I gave it a try.

And like I said, I was surprised. Sure, this book had its issues with cliches and sappiness and deus ex machina, but it reminded me of reading The DUFF in that I had so much fun despite so many little things frustrating me. I actually read this book several weeks ago, and I remember very much enjoying it. But now I'm looking back and noticing objectively bad things about it.

Stacey Jay's writing style was smooth, as was the pacing until we hit the story's climax and her conveniently hidden mentor begins dropping hints to lead her to and guide her during the complication. The plot was engaging, though, and Jay succeeded at creating a plot that is exciting at least.

Juliet was determined, but so much so that she was blind to the obvious occasionally. She herself was an interesting enough character to follow, but the quasi binary opposition she had going with Romeo was the real dynamic that had me intrigued. Scratch that, just Romeo. His chaotic goodish, bipolar nature had me seeking out his appearances especially.

With an unexpected and slightly contrived conclusion, Juliet Immortal was a unique spin on the original tale. It was well-paced and enjoyable, but it had problems too to balance the positives.

I give Juliet Immortal a 3 out of 5.